What is there for a violin to do but to make beautiful sounds? Part of that beauty is the instrument, but the greater part is what the player does on it. This beauty should always be the performer’s goal; the myriad emotions evoked are produced by what the composer intends when writing and marking his score.
In Sunday’s display of four more IVCI semifinalists, the greatest beauty was consistently wrought by Eric Silberger, 21, U.S. (Indy background). In his program, featuring sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms, Joan Tower’s IVCI-commissioned required piece, String Force, and Saint-Saëns’ ever-familiar display warhorse, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Silberger never once made an ugly sound, yet his technical command of all the material was overwhelming. His tone was consistently rich and invariant, no matter whether playing a slow, plaintive line or whip-sawing over his fingerboard as in the Saint-Saëns or the Tower piece.
Silberger was the second and final afternoon player. I left the Indiana History Center’s Basile Theater thinking I might be hearing the beginnings of a great violinist’s career. For me, he topped his preliminaries appearance by sounding “polished” after all (I had opined that he wasn’t). My only caveat is not with Silberger, but that he may not be using the finest of instruments, as a great many participants have on loan. His violin sounded a bit more constricted than those of the other three Sunday players. This is only conjecture, however, as the program booklet does not indicate what he plays.
The three remaining players: David McCarroll, 24, U.S., Nikki Chooi, 21, Canada and Benjamin Beilman, 20, U.S. all showed less tonal control, falling into the still exalted but “ordinary” category for this competition. But ordinary playing within the 2010 IVCI is skilled enough to have provided many of them fame and fortune as recently as half a century ago. Yes, as a result of the “sellers’ market” being overloaded, the standard-of-excellence has risen with it. You have to stand above your peers in a significant way. Only Eric Silberger—along with possibly a few others yet to be displayed in the semifinals—does.
Note: Silberger’s acknowledged growing up here in Indy clearly has no bearing whatever on my personal assessment of his abilities.